By: Kgabo Chuene
Having done all my basic education in schools that offered no music and offered very minimal career counselling, music is something I actually fumbled into. Although I was always a part of the choir. The year that I changed degrees, I knew that Accounting was about to physically end my life, I knew that I loved music and the most important thing, I had FIRE. My friend and mentor was speaking to me about the fact that I had been miserable for a while and she was asking me what I was doing to get happy. Her actual question was “what are you doing about your dreams?” I realised I was actually just spending my time whining about being unhappy and not doing anything about it. That conversation was what put on the fire. It was as if the gods of music had possessed me after that. I went on to apply to various schools, including Berklee College of Music, having only 2 months’ worth of music theory (I know!). I don’t actually understand how I actually got an audition. The long and short of it is that I got accepted into the Wits Music Foundation program in 2013 and so it all began.
The study of music is misunderstood. I think it’s a lot more misunderstood in black families, or maybe just mine. When I made the drastic change of degrees, my entire family initially freaked out about job security. This was a relevant concern, so I spent time with my parents explaining to them that it was a risk I was willing to take, explaining to them that I had no real facts apart from the fact that I was certain it’s the path my life is supposed to take (I’ll forever be indebted to my parents for supporting a dream of mine they don’t understand). Once they got over that, they expressed that since I was on my way to becoming famous, I should not be one of those women who are naked on stage and on TV. Once they got over that, they began asking about when my first CD is coming out and when I’ll be auditioning for Idols and XFactor and whatever other singing competition they would see on TV.
Over the last year I’ve actually become more attracted to a lot of things at music school that don’t involve performance. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being on a stage, just in a group more than I do by myself, hence my involvement in choir and plays. I’ve come to enjoy Composition a whole lot more and so this has become my focus. Now I’m breaking it down like, “I’m not trying to be the next Beyonce but I’m trying to be the next Hans Zimmer”. Lol!
Contrary to popular belief, studying music is not easy. While I’m smashing stereotypes, let me also say, one doesn’t need “something to fall back on” before studying music. I encounter a lot of people who believe we are just cruising through this thing and that the standard is just generally in such a way that we all get good marks. Not only is this incorrect, but it is offensive to people who barely sleep and spend large amounts of time in isolation working on their crafts. The study of the Arts in general is tricky because it often feels as though your person is being marked. It’s about learning to use criticism to your advantage and let it fuel you instead of break you down. It’s also about learning and accepting that you’ll have bad days and those may fall on test or exam days, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you suck. It just so happens that our work is often personal.
Whenever I’m asked how school is, somewhere in my answer is always “It’s kicking my ass, but I love it”. It’s full of challenges, which I may complain and whine about, but always manage to surprise myself on the other side of them. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a happier life, a bigger life, an expanded life and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner, continuously and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you, is a fine art, in and of itself”.